When it comes to taking care of your houseplants, there are some simple tricks you can use when watering plants in pots to protect the health of your plants. These easy changes to your watering habits can reap huge benefits and help you avoid some common houseplant issues.
When to Water Plants in Pots
Almost every plant appreciates a regular watering schedule. What that schedule looks like depends on the plant’s moisture needs, the environment it’s growing in, and the time of year. In addition to the plant’s watering schedule, the time of day you water your houseplants can also make a big difference.
Finding Your Plant’s Schedule
Depending on a plant’s level of drought tolerance, your plants will require water replenishment based on how much moisture is left in the soil. Plants with high drought tolerance are alright with the soil drying out completely between waterings. Those with mid-drought tolerance prefer to be watered once the top 1 to 3 inches of soil feels dry.
Tropical plants, and others used to a humid climate, thrive best when their soil is kept consistently moist. No matter your plant type, take cues from your plants’ appearance. Wilting leaves or color changes to yellow or red are often indicators of overwatering, or a more serious condition called root rot. Wilted leaves, with browning edges, often indicate too little water.
Most plants have a dormancy period during the year in which growth slows or comes to a stop. For many, this period is from late fall to early spring, but this is not always the case. No matter when that dormancy period is, your plant will need less water because its need for moisture and nutrients are drastically reduced. Always research the water needs for a particular plant during this time to ensure you don’t overwater the plant and cause health issues.
What Time of Day to Water Plants in Containers
When possible, try to water your plants in the morning. While this rule is more important for watering plants in pots outdoors, it’s still a good habit to get into. The cooler temperatures of night, mixed with wet soil and leaves, is a leading cause of fungus issues and powdery mildew. On the other hand, watering plants sitting in direct sun during midday causes increased water evaporation and scorching of wet leaves. Making plant watering a part of your morning routine, once or twice per week, helps you remember the task and benefits your plants.
Watering Plants in Containers–The Right Way
Some plants are more particular in how they’re watered than others. Yet, even tough houseplants benefit from good watering habits.
What Type of Watering Container to Use
Watering plants in pots properly is much easier when you have the right kind of watering can. For houseplants, choose a watering container with a long, narrow spout. The length of the spout allows you to reach deeper into bushy plants and closer to the soil. A narrow spout lets you control the amount of water you pour, ensuring you don’t overwater your houseplants.
Getting Water Where it’s Needed
When watering your plants, aim to pour the water directly onto the soil. This is important for two reasons–first, it’s the roots, below the soil, that absorbs the water and hydrates the plant. Once the soil is evenly moist, and the water begins to seep through the pot’s drainage holes, that’s your indicator to stop watering.
Second, many plants react negatively to having moisture on the leaves. Aside from the increased chances of fungal issues, plants such as African Violets develop unsightly leaf spots when water sits on the leaves.
For plants that are extremely sensitive to water on their foliage, water from the bottom instead. Plants, as long as the pot has drainage holes, are placed in a sink or tub filled with water. The soil then soaks up the water from the bottom, avoiding contact with the leaves. Once the surface of the soil is moistened, remove the plant from the water, allow it to drain, and place it back in its usual spot.
How Much Water is Needed?
The key to watering a plant thoroughly is to ensure a consistent soil-moisture level from top to bottom. Watering deeply encourages stronger, healthier root development. A plant’s roots will always seek out moisture to absorb. If a plant’s watering remains shallow, the roots will never have reason to grow past the first few inches of soil. This weakens the plant. Watering deeply ensures the roots grow longer and stronger, which, in turn, gives the plant a better ability to absorb the water and nutrients it needs as it grows.
As in many cases, there can be too much of a good thing. While you want to ensure your plant receives enough water to stay hydrated, too much water has negative effects on a plant’s health. Prolonged exposure to waterlogged soil often leads to root rot, which can eventually kill your plant if not corrected in time. Aim to water just until the moisture begins to seep through the pot’s drainage holes and into the saucer. That’s your cue to stop.
What Type of Water to Use for Watering Plants in Pots
Tap water is acceptable for watering your houseplants. Use distilled or filtered water if your local water has high levels of chlorine, salts, or other chemicals that may adversely affect your plants. Water softeners, which use salts to condition the water, cause salt levels to build up in the soil. High levels of salt can cause plant dehydration.
To combat high salt levels, ensure your pot has drainage holes and some water runs out these holes, and into the saucer, when watering your plants. This helps flush out some of the salts with each watering. Allow the soil to drain all excess water, then dispose of the excess water to avoid soggy soil and reabsorption of the salts.
Using these few watering tactics help maintain your houseplants’ health. With some small adjustments, you can ensure watering plants in pots is as beneficial as possible. If you find keeping up with your houseplants’ water requirements is too demanding, you may want to consider investing in self-watering pots.
Watering Pots in Plants FAQ
Once the plant’s soil is finished draining, dispose of the collected water immediately to avoid the roots sitting in water.
While some plants tolerate moisture on their leaves better than others, excessive water should be wiped off with a soft cloth to avoid fungal issues. This is especially true of leaves with fine hairs on them, which holds moisture longer than smooth leaves.
Average chlorine levels in tap water won’t harm most houseplants but some plants will develop leaf browning from excessive chlorine exposure. To avoid this issue, pour water into your watering container and let it sit for 24 hours. This allows the chlorine to dissipate before being poured into your plant’s soil.
Yes, proper drainage holes allow excess water to drain out of the soil, which is important for a healthy plant.
For plants that are more susceptible to root rot, it is recommended to grow those plants in an unglazed terracotta or clay pot. These two materials naturally wick up water, which helps regulate soil moisture.